I need something crafty to do!
June 10, 2011 9:59 AM   Subscribe

I need a craft that doesn't require a lot of supplies and is easy to do with little desk space.

I seem to be suffering from bouts of depression at night because I don't have anything to do. This is not exactly true, as I am usually an avid gamer but the motivation isn't there.

I want to craft something with my hands, I think. To make something tangible. Possibly to either get good enough to sell things on etsy, or to give as gifts.

My problem is space. Because it's summer and because I turn into a vicious monster when I'm enclosed in a room that's hotter than 75 degrees.. I can't work at the kitchen table.. since it lacks AC. This leaves me with my desk, that already houses my keyboard (which I can put aside) and my monitor. There's no room to put a craft desk/table anywhere else.

Stuff I already do:
Moderate Sewing Projects

Stuff I've done in the past:
Chainmaille (This takes far too long)
Polymer Clay (I did this a long time ago, had fun with it but was never really skilled)

Stuff I'm not interested in:
Scrapbooking (It's just not for me)
Drawing/Painting (This is as skilled as I get. I can draw to explain, i can't craft masterful pieces of artwork)
Jewerly making (I have one family member who is absolutely fantastic at this and I don't want to steal her thunder)

I've always had a passing interesting in other papercraft not associated with scrapbooking, but I worry about the sheer amount of supplies you need.

Bonus Question: If I did decide to go down a papercraft route, is there places to get things like scissors and punches and die-cutters (I already have a machine) without paying craft store prices?

Any suggestions?
posted by royalsong to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (38 answers total) 33 users marked this as a favorite

Unit origami in particular.
posted by gyusan at 10:01 AM on June 10, 2011

posted by Neekee at 10:05 AM on June 10, 2011

Papercutting! All you need is a small self-healing cutting mat and an Xacto knife. (And paper, of course.) And this book, if you want to feel simultaneously inspired and totally inadequate.
posted by enlarged to show texture at 10:10 AM on June 10, 2011

Not that you asked, but I think doing something that's not sitting at a desk or table will help with insomnia. Sitting isn't going to necessarily tire you out or relax you enough to sleep. Could you do yoga or isometrics or breathing exercises? I think using big muscles, not just hand ones, will help more.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:16 AM on June 10, 2011

You could learn calligraphy or another form of penmanship. (I like Spencerian Script.) Requirements are a suitable pencil, pen, ink, and appropriate paper. Occasional access to a photocopier would be helpful.
posted by Hylas at 10:22 AM on June 10, 2011

Ideefixe: Thank you for your suggestions. I'm not having trouble sleeping (*crosses fingers*). From the time I get home from work (or on the days I'm off) until I go to sleep.. depression slowly creeps up on me. I'm concluding that this is because I'm not keeping myself occupied.

I function very well with distraction, and I need some new distractions is all.
posted by royalsong at 10:25 AM on June 10, 2011

I like to make small bound books. You can make lovely blank ones to give as gifts or make more collage-type art books for personal expression, whichever suits you. As far as storage space goes, almost all of my supplies fit in one shallow desk drawer -- some Davey board, waxed thread and blunt needles, glue and a brush, a little awl, a ruler, a cutting mat, and an X-acto/extra blades (okay, it sounds like a lot, but they're all small!). I also have a book press that my boyfriend made me, but you don't absolutely need one. I keep a stash of pretty paper from craft stores/Paper Source rolled up in a mailing tube in my closet, but I also like to reuse pages from old Life magazines, calendars, etc.

If there are supplies you can't find at a craft store, John Neal Bookseller is a good source. You didn't mention a budget, but I think you could get yourself set up nicely for around $100. I can't recall the title of the book I used to get started, but a quick search on Amazon brings up lots of options.
posted by in a dark glassly at 10:27 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]

You can draw mazes or Celtic knots or dungeon plans with graph paper, a pencil, and maybe a pen and a ruler. You can draw city buildings (big cubes) in two point perspective with paper, a pencil, and a ruler.
posted by anaelith at 10:32 AM on June 10, 2011

You listed knitting as something you're possibly interested in and I wanted to say: knitting is the easiest thing to teach yourself. Even the really complicated stuff. Start with knitting and purling a scarf, and then pick a pattern for something easy but a little more complicated that you'd like to make. Just look on youtube for the techniques.

I taught myself to knit from internet videos on a pair of wooden skewers and have become a pretty decent knitter.
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 10:39 AM on June 10, 2011

Tie flies.
posted by pjaust at 10:45 AM on June 10, 2011

posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:45 AM on June 10, 2011

Try this -- go to a craft store and look at the kids' section - or a toy store and look at the craft section, -- and see if anything is interesting.

I mention kids' stuff specifically, because they have scores of these prepackaged-kits for kids, with a very bare-bones selection of equipment to make a single, small project ("everything you need to paint a plate/knit a bookmark/make some fancy soap/make a clock/etc."). The materials are usually decent quality, and the cash outlay is generally pretty small, and so is the amount of space it'd take up. It's a good way to sample stuff without a huge cash outlay, and get a feel for what [fnarg]ing would entail.

If you try something and ultimately aren't crazy about the process, at least you've done something, and at least you can cross it off your list, plus you at least have some small practical object to use. If you try something that you ultimately fall in love with, well there you go.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:47 AM on June 10, 2011 [3 favorites]

You listed knitting as something you're possibly interested in

...No, I think it's on the list of things the OP is NOT interested in.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:48 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Hand embroidery! You can get an Aunt Martha's iron-on transfer for $1.49 at Jo-Ann Fabrics and a set of cheap pillowcases at K-Mart for $9.99. Embroidery floss, needles, and a hoop won't run any more than $10 total, even if you go crazy with lots of different colors. There's lots of tutorials online and a nice, complicated design can take up at least a week, even if you work a couple hours a day. And embroidered pillowcases make a great gift. (Or if you don't like pillowcases, there's a ton of other stuff out there to embroider. Pillowcases used only as an example.)

I also second unit origami (very fun) and kid's kits (I've really enjoyed the pressed wood snap-together kits they sell at Michael's, although they don't take very long).
posted by pie ninja at 11:02 AM on June 10, 2011

Embroidery is cheap, and you can do it anywhere. I usually do it sitting on the couch with something on the TV for background.

Papercutting (scherenschnitte) is also cheap, and shouldn't take up much space. The fiddly attention to detail could be either absorbing, or maddening.

Maybe decoupage? You could make picture frames, gift boxes, journal covers, etc.
posted by Safiya at 11:06 AM on June 10, 2011

make stop-motion videos! get some modeling clay and make little characters out of it. then take a digital camera and snap one frame at a time, load the pictures up and put it to music. make a clay monkey pick up a pencil and write a love note. make an octopus type on your computer keys, eight legs at a time.

screenprinting is a great creative activity as well, although it requires some initial start-up investment. you could possibly combine your existing sewing with some screenprinted goodness.

OH. I am going to let you in on my party-favor/small gift secret: bubble magnets. Get some magazines and go nuts. You could probably extend this technique to coasters, trivets, ash trays, etc.

On that note: tile mosaics. I want to try this, but haven't because I assume the materials are expensive (this may be an askme question of mine at some point). if you go this route let me know how it goes!

Other thoughts: Writing, blogging, learning a language, experimenting with blender, crafting ocarinas out of clay and learning to play them, making birdhouses out of gourds, making underwear out of old t-shirts, soapmaking, candlemaking, quilting, diorama-making!
posted by ghostbikes at 11:14 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

I quite enjoy making plastic model airplanes. Not much room at all, and very much an entry-level hobby. Do as little or as much as you want in one sitting. And even if you stink at it, there's still a sense of accomplishment at the end, that you made this thing with your hands even though they're hard to mess up cuz you're dealing with a kit and paint covers a lot of mistakes.
posted by Capt. Renault at 11:16 AM on June 10, 2011

I'm going to second embroidery and cross stitching.

I haven't done much with embroidery, but I find cross stitching very relaxing, and rewarding when you finish a project. It doesn't take any more space than the project/hoop that you hold in your hands and the little pack of thread and chart. I keep all of my projects in a drawstring bag about the size of a textbook.
posted by Kimothy at 11:21 AM on June 10, 2011

Quilling, maybe. (Please disregard the sales pitch-iness of the video.) You can buy kits to see if you like it and expand from there if you want, and you can stick what you make onto some folded cardstock and voila! Cute handmade cards.
posted by alynnk at 11:26 AM on June 10, 2011

I don't have a specific idea for a craft but Ebay has a LOT of supplies for cheaper than craft store prices. I know it can seem like a crapshoot but maybe I've just had good luck so far.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:31 AM on June 10, 2011

Have a browse around Etsy to get ideas for things that look fun to make, and give it a go!

I'm really getting into making hair accessories - which incorporates the sort of skills used in jewellry making, but also provide new ways of using your crochet and sewing skills, and wouldn't steal your family member's thunder. Same with customising clothes.

So maybe look at new ways of using your existing skills, things that will make them new and interesting?

I'm also a big fan of baking (the creations get eaten - not all by me - so don't take up space) - but that might not be ideal in the middle of summer with no AC...
posted by finding.perdita at 11:44 AM on June 10, 2011

Bead weaving, either with or without a loom (bead looms are small and pretty cheap). You don't need a ton of supplies other than thread, needles, and beads, and the process can be pretty meditative.
posted by Metroid Baby at 12:04 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nalbinding and cross stitch.
posted by elsietheeel at 12:04 PM on June 10, 2011

Yes to cross-stitching and embroidery. I find both very relaxing and satisfying. You can keep your whole project in a big zip-lock bag.

I suggest getting kits from Subversive Cross-stitch and/or Sublime Stitching. They are cheeky and don't take too long to complete. I believe each sells kits that come with pretty much everything you need.

Also make sure to sign up for Michael's email list so you always get their 40% off coupons!

I love EC's (damnit I can never spell your name!) suggestion of kids crafts. I used to love to do that kind of thing as a kid and always find myself lingering in that section of the toy store or craft store. Creativity for Kids kits are well thought-out and contain everything you need.
posted by radioamy at 12:10 PM on June 10, 2011

Oh and as for other papercrafts, decoupage is really fun! All you need is some Mod Podge and a foam brush, plus some paper and something to cover.
posted by radioamy at 12:11 PM on June 10, 2011

(oops, sorry OP, and thanks EmpressCallipygos... should have read more carefully)
posted by i_am_a_fiesta at 12:18 PM on June 10, 2011

Cake decorating. I find making sugar flowers intensely soothing. It uses something of a similarish consistency to polymer clay, so it won't get all in your keyboard.
posted by jeather at 12:41 PM on June 10, 2011

pipe cleaner art - it is cheap and versatile and all you need are some wire cutters.
posted by mutt.cyberspace at 12:47 PM on June 10, 2011

Another vote for decoupage. Most of the work is the cutting out and arranging of pictures - you can do that in bed. When you get to the gluing part, just spread out some newspaper on the floor and set to it!
posted by Alice Russel-Wallace at 1:34 PM on June 10, 2011

What kind of crochet do you do -- afghan squares, potholders and the like? How about trying some doilies/snowflakes/lace? I have a very modern sense of decor, but I still love knitting doilies; they're so impressive-looking to people [preen, preen] and they make nice gifts, even if they're just small motifs that you can give as holiday ornaments or whatever.

Temari is another sort of thing that has tidy construction and the possibility of being a nice little ornament-y gift. (Not that you asked to make things with a purpose or with gift connotations, but one of my big problems with doing hobbies in the evening -- very similar to your issue -- is that I need them to have a purpose other than just self-indulgence.)
posted by Madamina at 1:38 PM on June 10, 2011

If you have any little girls in your life (or want to donate to some), you might think about Smocking. It's a sewing technique that gathers the fabric into pleats, then you use embroidery stitches to put designs on the pleats. When I did this, we found someone who would do the pleating with a machine, then we used it as a canvas for the embroidery. I'm sure someone at the sewing store knows where you can get that done.
posted by CathyG at 5:26 PM on June 10, 2011

Along with cross-stitch and embroidery (I've always wanted to do a real sampler, but doubt I'll ever get around to it) is needlepoint. The finished results usually get made into pillows. I also own three needlepoint Christmas stockings.

You can, with cross stitch and embroidery, make tea towels out of cheesecloth. They come in kits as well.

Hooked rug kits aren't terribly expensive and easy to do.

I've also decorated wreaths, but that can get a bit spendy depending on your base wreath and the items you wish to add to it. It can also take up some room.

Decoupage, as mentioned above, is fun too. I've done plaques, boxes, a kitchen step stool. Lots of stuff can be decoupaged.

Oh, bobbin lace! Not a lot of supplies required, but I don't know how much they would run.

This thread reminded me I have tons of supplies for making the bubble/marble magnets. I really should get that stuff out and get to it!
posted by deborah at 7:33 PM on June 10, 2011

Perhaps tatting?
posted by orrnyereg at 5:53 AM on June 11, 2011

Needle felting! All you need is some wool roving, a needle, and a block of foam (to protect the surface you're working on) and you're set. It's compact and super easy - seriously, anyone can stab wool with a needle.
posted by ValkoSipuliSuola at 8:59 AM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

For embroidery patterns, try Sublime Stitching - $5 a pattern, cheaper for a PDF if you have a transfer pencil. Get a jumbo pack of floss from your local craftstore, the Anchor guide to embroidery stitches (or similar - try the library) and anything you have that needs a bit of embellishment. If you already do sewing projects they could work well together.
posted by mippy at 9:04 AM on June 11, 2011

If you're interested in branching out in crochet, join Ravelry for some inspiration (I didn't spot you in the Metastitcher group there). Maybe try some techniques you haven't done before -- it's nice not to have to start from scratch with a new skillset to try something new.
posted by asperity at 4:33 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I also love Sublime Stitching's patterns--they don't require a lot of time or skill (anybody can do a decent backstitch) and I find this kind of work comforting and soothing. It's repetitive, so it calms your brain, but there's enough variety (through changing colors and stitches) that it's not boring. I have problems with depression, too, and I find embroidery helps me by giving me a sense of accomplishment and the bright-colored floss cheers me up. Plus, the SS patterns are just fun! And the start-up costs are very low--you probably already have some appropriate fabric around if you sew a bit.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 6:01 PM on June 11, 2011

Thanks for your suggestions everyone!

I think I'm going to try macrame first.. and possibly quilling after that! (I had no idea that was a craft, I thought it was just something someone incredibly creative came up with)
posted by royalsong at 6:27 AM on June 16, 2011

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